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How to Comfort Someone Who is Terminally ill


When a loved one or family member is dying it can seem as if words fail us, however after the physical hug, words are all that we have left. These words when carefully chosen can give comfort and support to the person who is dying and ease the frustration and hopelessness felt by the people who care.


Often people feel anticipatory grief when they find out a loved one/friends or even a family member is dying. Anticipatory grief means dealing with a grieving, a loss, before it has happened. When someone is terminally ill the person who is dying as well as friends and family face many losses. This can result to eventual blows to independence, security, impaired abilities and truncated visions of the future. This leads to many emotions the typical ones being:

1.    Denial
2.    Anxiety
3.    Anger
4.    Sorrow
5.    Depression
6.    Acceptance.


Talk with friends and family


It is important to talk with sympathetic friends or family members, most people have experienced loss in one form or another. Join a support group for “pre-bereavement” be it on-line or in person.

Talk to the wonderful readers at TheCircle who can support you and guide you through this difficult time, allowing you to then support the person who is dying. By keeping yourself strong you can be there for them.


Avoid saying wrong things


The last thing one should do is keep away from a friend or loved one who is facing death for fear of saying the “wrong thing”. The best solution is often to say nothing at all, simply just being there is often enough. If you are a close friend “I love you” is enough. Keep the expression of concern simple and be willing to be a good listener.


  • Practise the art of listening.
  • Be present and wait.
  • Ask a question then wait.
  • Avoid offering instant solutions or pleasantries say instead “that must be awful/gratifying/frustrating/wonderful” or whatever suits.
  • Ask “How are you doing physically/emotionally/spiritually.”
  • If they are well enough, a walk looking at nature and rejoice in the beauty around helps.
  • Recognise and acknowledge the impact they have made to others.
  • Reminisce about good times “Do you remember the time?” or “I was just thinking about”.

Sometimes just the simple “I'm sorry”, “I want to help if I can”, “You're a wonderful friend” and of course that all important “I love you” can make all the difference.

Our trained readers are waiting to help you through this difficult time.


PUBLISHED: 20 January 2014

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